Getting Fit For The Farm

What does it take to get fit for the farm you want to have? I don't mean just physically fit, although that is important. There's also getting your brains, your motivation and your finances in shape to launch a new business. Here's a few suggestions in all these areas to help you get fit for farm livin'.

Getting your brain fit for the farm. Any business requires the owner to make decisions, set priorities, and allocate resources to deliver the goods to your customers. And organic farming and market gardening is just as knowledge-intensive as any small business you could name. This means you have to manage and grow your business as well as your garden.

To expand on this (putting on my management consulting hat for a minute) , every business has three kinds of work:

  1. Operations work – performing and managing known tasks that are already in existence, solving problems, delivering the goods. This is the day to day job of running your business

  2. Top-management work – this includes such tasks as deciding exactly what your business is (or what it should be). It includes setting objectives, creating strategies to meet those objectives, and then allocating the necessary resources. It also includes finding the human resources to get the job done.

  3. Innovation work - figuring out changes that will lead to improvements in the service you offer. This is the 'looking-to-the-future' work.

So part of getting your brain fit for farming is A – understanding that someone has to do all these kinds of work in your business, B – realizing that that 'someone' is probably you for the foreseeable future, and C – setting out to learn what you can about planning, marketing and management in a small business.

Getting your motivation fit for the farm. Or maybe this should just say getting your 'emotions' fit. In my experience the well-known saying is absolutely true, no exceptions: Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right!

This means you need to try every way you can to keep your motivation and your belief high. There will be setbacks and disappointments. Treat them as learning experiences, and do better next time. If you have a clear idea of what you are trying to create (see Top Management work above) and where your business is going, you need to stay focused on achieving those outcomes.

Here's a secret: I spend as much time reading and learning about motivational and self-development type topics as I do about farming and consulting put together! It's an investment in my emotional well-being, i.e. my 'motivation muscle'. I think it was Zig Ziglar who said 'Motivational reading doesn't last, but neither does bathing; that's why I recommend some of each daily'!

Get financially fit for the farm. Understand that your farm probably won't support you the first year (or three). So you need to have either another source of revenue, or sufficient reserves to get you through the learning curve.

When we started New Terra Farm, we were governed by the need for me to still make an off-farm income. The CSA market gardening model was a good choice, because we could start small, on a part-time basis, and I could work it around my other commitments. Similarly, raising livestock seasonally on pasture is suitable for the part-time farmer.

If you are leaving the city for the small farming life, pay down debts as much as you can. It might be a good idea to secure yourself a line of credit too, while you still have a 'straight job.' Lenders love 'wage slaves' much more than small business owners when it comes to things like that.

Get physically fit for the farm, too. Especially as I get older, I find that regular, structured exercise is a necessity. I tend to get 'soft' over the winter months, so I start spring training every year, to get in shape for the farming season. You don't have to live at the gym. I find a couple sessions of short-interval, high-intensity (HIT) weight training each week keeps me fit for farming. Buy a barbell set and a good bench and follow a good program. I like HIT training because it only takes me 30 minutes twice a week. But get advice from your doctor and maybe a fitness professional before you start.

For further reading . . .

Now is the time to start planning your farm for next season, check out the links below and the resources at right to help you make next year the most successful year on your small farm . . .

Community Supported Agriculture Success Secrets

If you gotta fail, fail BIG!

Growing for Market Get-Started Checklist

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